Rules: Eric Reads the Week, #61

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

This week: Tiff & O's Vegetables, empathy guesses, and the chillest skiing you've ever seen.

I went on this mini-Twitter... pontification about rules on Friday. I guess the word that's most commonly used is rant but it was not a Twitter rant. I didn't use any exclamation points, everything was in lowercase and I wasn't mad (when people say they're not mad it usually means they're big mad but seriously I wasn't mad. I WASN'T MAD!!!!)

I just got to thinking about how all these schools are threatening to suspend kids who stage walkouts in support of gun control and how heartening it is to see colleges posting statements letting kids know that they won't hold it against them. Some random adult tweeted "Spoiler alert: there is no permanent record" and it rocked my entire world. Like, I am fully an adult--I pay a car note; I have a retirement plan; I have no hair; I say "Oh lordy" when I sit down in a soft chair; I get annoyed when people are too loud in restaurants--BUT it had never occurred to me that nothing on my high school record, good and bad, has ever come up again in regular life. Well, it never independently came up. I will bring up the fact that I was student council president with a quickness and literally everyone knows I played Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors junior year. But, that's just polite party conversation.

There's never been a job interview or a Tinder date or a secret interrogation by a government agency where the person sitting across the table from me looked at a file and said, "I see you got a C in Chemistry." This is a shame because I would have responded "Yeah, well I think our chemistry is in the A range, eh?!" and then I would have winked very weirdly. Even if it was a secret interrogation by a government agency and not a Tinder date. Especially if it was a secret interrogation by a government agency.

Ultimately, my twitter thread ended on the idea that the most important question anyone, a student or an adult, can ask is why. We should always be able to defend our rules. And we should be open to idea that a rule that worked for a time, in a certain societal context, doesn't work anymore.

Of course I say all this now but the minute I have kids everything is going to become "Because I said so! You think I work all day putting tweets on the internet so that I can come home and be sass-mouthed?! No, I do not. I was student council president in 1999 and that means I'm the boss of this house."

My parenting style is "Chaos Muppet."

I think about rules a lot. I was a very obedient child and teenager. Almost Puritanically so, to be honest. I was nice but also a nightmare of rigidity. I was basically the kid villain in The Crucible; my aspiration in life was to catch Goody Proctor dancing in the moonlight.

I just thought you were supposed to be perfect. And I thought that was possible and I thought, then, that perfection meant one thing and had one context.

Nowadays I am a writer who spends a lot of time on the internet so any time I think I've neared perfection, someone will gladly let me know that I haven't. It's a dream!

I've been doing more interviews lately for my job (including one in this week's bundle!) and I realized that I wanted to get better at them so I listened to this great podcast about interviewing. I realized that everyone has their own style and their own methods, so while the podcast was insanely engrossing, it seemed the best course of action for me was to learn as much as I could about what the rules of the form were, and then do whatever I wanted.

Learn first, then break.

One of the best things about knowing the rules is knowing where they can break, knowing what their limits are, knowing what context they were intended for. Understanding a rule and then deciding to go a different way is what we call innovation. It's how our society moves forward.

This is never not handy for me, in every area. Writing, baking, driving (well, I don't break the rules when I drive. 10 & 2; speed limit; turn signal. I'm a SAINT.) One of the things I enjoy the most, in fact, is going back to the basics in a field that I know and reteaching myself, reminding myself of what I already knew and why I do things the way I do. Learning, and breaking, and learning and breaking, over and over again. In pursuit of something better than I've done before.

This week we have a variety of relationships to rules, from Shonda Rhimes rewriting the rules of an empowering workplace, to This Is Us breaking the one rule they must never break. But first... this, well, this rules.

Tiffany Haddish Had the Only Appropriate Response to Meeting Oprah: Uncontrollable Sobbing

There are some very important rules that govern The Ellen Show. If you are a regular person who ends up on her show, she will surprise you with riches, gifts, blessings, and sometimes even a job. But, if you are a celebrity, she will surprise you by scaring you half to death. This week, however, a new rule was etched into the books and it is perhaps the greatest of them all. If you are the superhuman tornado of comedy and readiness Tiffany Haddish, and you end up on The Ellen Show, she will surprise you by bringing the human embodiment of all that is good and secure in the universe, Oprah Winfrey, to you. And you will sob uncontrollably. Them's the rules! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Trump Used Notes to Remember How to Empathize

Personally, when I speak to people my notes tend to say things like:

  • A story about a dog

  • Attentive face

  • Intersectionality

  • Plug website

  • No collusion

So, I'm a bit torn on where to come down on this list. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

The Lackadaisical Freeskier, Is the Most Inspiring Person I've Ever Seen

Elizabeth Swaney heard y'all were having some Olympics and figured she'd strap on a pair of skis and hang out. From my extensive research (watching halfpipe last week for the first time ever) I know that this is a sport in which athletes are meant to gain speed by skiing down the sides of the halfpipe and launch themselves into the air to perform tricks. Elizabeth is out here to disrupt that industry with the simple question "What if we just didn't?" [READ THE FULL COLUMN]


Katie Lowes is busy. When she calls from her trailer on the set of Scandal, it's 7 A.M. her time and she's got a full day of shooting ahead of her. The actress, who just returned from maternity leave to complete her run as Quinn Perkins on the hit Shondaland show, is funny and engaged despite the early hour, the team of people buzzing behind her, and the breakfast sandwich order she has to briefly interrupt our call to make. "This is me multi-tasking at Scandal," she says with a laugh. [READ THE FULL INTERVIEW]

**Seriously! Read it. She's fantastic and what she says about being a working mom is incredible.**

Open Letter to This Is Us: Do Not Kill Beth

Are you listening to me, This Is Us? Do not touch a hair on Beth's head. Do not! Beth's hair is laid like gold and silver in every single episode. Leave her head and her hair alone. Beth does her hair like she is Wakandan royalty and the world is better for it. You want a twist, This Is Us? Have her discover that she's the long-lost sister of T'Challa and Shuri. Send her on an adventure. Like how Modern Family goes to Disney World every couple of years. That. But in Wakanda. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Chicago! TIME IS ON OUR SIDE begins performances March 1!

Listen, this is going to be so good. I need you to send a message to anyone you know in Chicago (INCLUDING MICHELLE OBAMA) and tell them to GO SEE THIS SHOW.
Do it!
I'll love you forever.

Let's hang out in Philadelphia May 2-20! Tickets are pay-what-you-decide after the show! Reserve here.

Random Thing from the Internet...

This is that great interviews on interviews podcast I mentioned earlier!

Break the rules,